Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Administration Failing to Reunite Migrant Families?; Supreme Court Confirmation Battle Begins. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 10, 2018 - 16:30   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Offering relative clam amid the fierce partisan war...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: The right to life for all.

MATTINGLY: ... that has already engulfed Washington.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Judge Kavanaugh, you don't belong in this building as a justice.

MATTINGLY: Senate Democratic leaders vowing a no-holds-barred fight to block Brett Kavanaugh's nomination.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: His views are outside the mainstream. And there's every reason to believe he would overturn Roe.

MATTINGLY: Bolstered by new energy from Democrats, special counsel probe in mind, also keying on a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article where Kavanaugh wrote -- quote -- "Congress might consider a law exempting a president while in office from criminal investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel."

This even as the math and the political reality facing several senators in the Democratic Party underscores the uphill climb they have ahead. Three Democrats from states Trump won by double digits in 2016 up for reelection and considered prime targets by Republicans.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: What we would like to see is a few open minds about this extraordinary talent.

MATTINGLY: For Democrats, two targets of their own, based on two carefully tailored issues, abortion rights and health care, Republican Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: As with any nominee to the Supreme Court, I am going to apply a very rigorous test.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: He certainly has the qualifications. But I know that there will be further process.

MATTINGLY: It's a fight driven by the Democratic Party's own agitated and activated base, and the stakes posed by a potentially seismic rightward shift on the highest court in the land.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The ramifications of this battle will last a generation and more. I'm going to fight this nomination with everything I have got.


MATTINGLY: And, Jake, that fight not just coming from Democrats on the Hill, but also outside groups as well on both sides.

I'm told tens of millions of dollars likely to be spent to either bolster or help try and shut down this nomination in the weeks ahead by those outside groups, but a key thing to remember here.

Obviously, Brett Kavanaugh had two meetings today on Capitol Hill. This is just the very start of a process, a process that will likely take about two-and-a-half months. Those behind-the-scenes meetings are crucial.

Those will be the opportunities for senators, senators like Susan Collins, like Lisa Murkowski, like the Democrats, to get a true sense of where the nominee is.

And the reality is we probably won't know where the votes are until not just after the meetings, but after the confirmation meeting and shortly the vote. A lot of time left to go. Republicans feel like they are in a good place right now, but there's no question about it. Democrats, whether they can win this or not, are absolutely going to fight in the weeks ahead, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And the White House pushing for a vote by October 1.

Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

I'm back with the panel.

Kirsten, take a listen to some of the Democratic senators today making their case against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Kavanaugh has made his purpose clear. He told us that when he was on that list of 25. He has told us that in every decision he's made on the issue of choice.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: But I think the president looks at our independent court like he does the Justice Department. He thinks the courts as well as the Justice Department should be an arm of the White House.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: There are millions of people in our country who have preexisting conditions. I am one of them. And we should be very concerned that this nominee has been vetted.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: How much of this is about stopping Brett Kavanaugh where the math is going to be very difficult for them, and how much of this is about revving up the Democratic base for the midterms?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think they have to -- whether there were midterms or there were no midterms, they have to do this because the Democratic base would be upset if they didn't see some sort of resistance, even if it's pretty unlikely that they will be able to stop him.

You have to still put forward some sort of effort. And then I guess they're hoping that maybe something will come out during the hearings. Seems very unlikely.

But the ultimate question is, who would they replace him with? Even if they were able to stop him, the idea that Donald Trump is ever going to choose somebody who isn't hostile to Roe v. Wade at a minimum.

A lot of Republicans are saying, oh, no, it won't get overturned. I don't necessarily agree with that. We know at a minimum it would have to be somebody who was extremely hostile to Roe v. Wade.

TAPPER: You worked with Brett Kavanaugh. You both worked at the Bush White House.

He is being portrayed as kind of a mainstream conservative by his supporters. A lot of Democrats say this guy is a wolf in sheep's clothing and he's actually very, very conservative. He's a member of The Federalist Society, et cetera.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They say this about every Republican Supreme Court nominee. Every time we put somebody forward, go back and look what they said about Kennedy all those years ago when he was put forward.


They do the same playbook every time. Chuck Schumer says he is going to fight this thing with everything he's got. Let me tell you what he has got. A slingshot and a pocket full of drier lint. He has nothing, as long as the Republicans stay united.

It's a mainstream conservative choice. Donald Trump has put these red state Democrats in a real box. They can either go home and vote what their constituents want, which is this guy Kavanaugh on the court, or they can bow to the Looney Tunes left, which has gone nuts in the last 12 hours.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Laura Coates.

Laura, in his 2006 confirmation hearing for D.C. Circuit Court, Chuck Schumer pressed Kavanaugh for his personal opinion about Roe vs. Wade. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: If confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent of the court. It's been decided by the Supreme Court.

SCHUMER: But what is your opinion? You're not on the bench yet. You have talked about these issues in the past to other people, I'm sure.

KAVANAUGH: The Supreme Court has held repeatedly, Senator, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to give a personal view on that case.

SCHUMER: You're not going to answer the question.


TAPPER: Now, Laura, Jeffrey Toobin, as you know, our chief legal analyst, has said repeatedly he thinks whoever President Trump picks and, certainly Brett Kavanaugh, will ultimately vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Doesn't sound like it based on that testimony, although that was for a lower court.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The lower court aspect of it, Jake, is where all of the rubber will meet the road, because think about it.

The reason that somebody who is in an appellate court would have to abide by the precedent of the Supreme Court is because they're in an inferior position. They have to abide by the superior, the Supreme Court.

And so, thinking about why he would follow the precedential value of Roe v. Wade, it is not because he has some personal vested interest perhaps. It's because of where he stands on the court totem pole.

But if he were to become a Supreme Court justice, he is no longer beholden to having that level of precedent and having a level of deference that is required if you are an inferior court to the Supreme Court of the United States.

There's not a lot of comfort and solace I can find in that statement because it's actually appealing to where he stands in the superiority part of the courts.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Andrew Leipold, who worked with Brett Kavanaugh in the 1990s on the Ken Starr legal team that argued Bill Clinton should ultimately be impeached for a number of crimes he committed.

In 2009, much later, Brett Kavanaugh wrote he didn't believe presidents should be able to be indicted and he said he thought Congress should write a law to prevent it.

Today, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested Kavanaugh's position on presidential indictments is why President Trump picked him. Take a listen.


SCHUMER: He is worried that Mr. Mueller will go to the court and ask that the president be subpoenaed and ask to do other things necessary to move the investigation forward. And President Trump knows that Kavanaugh will be a barrier to preventing that investigation from going there.


TAPPER: What's your reaction, Andrew?

ANDREW LEIPOLD, FORMER COLLEAGUE OF BRETT KAVANAUGH: I think there's two things to keep in mind.

One is on the question of indictment. Judge Kavanaugh took this position in 1998 that sitting presidents shouldn't be indicted in some writing that he did.

Different question is whether or not the president can be investigated. And that's -- while he is in office -- and that's what the 2009 article that's getting so much attention now was. That's the new ground it broke.

I don't know. It's hard to see the connection between a law that Congress might pass that might exempt the president from being subject to investigations while in office, which is what Judge Kavanaugh was proposing in that law review article, and his role on the Supreme Court.

It's a pretty windy path to get to the point where Judge Kavanaugh if confirmed could end up having some kind of influence over the president's future.

COATES: You know, if I may, I don't think that the path is quite as windy as you are leading us to believe, because, frankly, one of the premises of his law review article was that it would really cripple the federal government to have a president of the United States, the head of the executive branch, have to endure the burdens he calls it of the ordinary citizenship.

Part of that does include the investigative role of the FBI, the DOJ and having subpoenas issued. I don't think it's that far of a leap to say that he would harbor some ill will to the premise that you cannot -- or you can actually put a sitting president through the rigmarole of having to abide by an investigation.

I think it's pretty clear path in what he is saying.

TAPPER: Andrew, you want to respond?

LEIPOLD: Well, except -- yes. That's not exactly what he said in the article.

What he said was that it would cripple the executive branch if a president were to be indicted and tried while in office. And he said, President Donald Trump or whoever sits -- whoever the president is, can be indicted and tried after they leave office, but impeachment is the exclusive remedy.

I'm not sure I agree with that personally. But that's the position he took.


But you raise an interesting point about the burdens on the office. A far greater likelihood of how the investigation of the president could end up in front of the Supreme Court is on the question of the subpoena power.

Can the president be subpoenaed to appear, for example, before a grand jury? That's something that's could end up -- under Rule 17 of the rules of procedure, could end in front of the Supreme Court about whether or not the president has to appear or not. That seems to me the more likely path.

But I think the Minnesota Law Review article is a little bit of a red herring.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. Thanks so much.

Young children taken in vans from detention centers, but where are they are going? The confusion grows, as the government now says the slow pace of reunions is necessary. Why?

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our "NATIONAL LEAD" now despite a court-ordered deadline only 38 of 102 migrant kids under five separated from their parents by the Trump administration will see their mothers and fathers by the end of the day. That's even fewer than the Department of Justice promised yesterday and still well short of course of the more than 2,000 children total who remain separated from their families. CNN's Rosa Flores is in San Benito, Texas outside one of the shelters where families go after they have been reunited. Rosa, on top of all this the Trump administration, is now saying that more than a quarter of these kids don't qualify for reunification. What exactly does that mean?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, in short about that quarter of parents what the government is saying is that they are not fit to be reunited with their children. Now here's the breakdown of those a 102 children under the age of five who were separated from their parents, 75 according to the government were deemed to be reunified, the other 27 did not qualify because either had criminal backgrounds, they had contagious diseases, or they were danger to the child who were not the parent of the child. But DHS and HHS are defending their process saying that it's for the safety and the security of the children.


FLORES: Children getting loaded onto buses in Arizona and Texas. That's as much as the public has been able to see of the possible reunifications of young children with their parents. The process has been chaotic. Of the 102 children under five years old that a California judge ordered to be reunited by today, at least 38 are expected to happen, the rest still in the process. In a call with reporters a Health and Human Services official said --

CHRIS MEEKINS, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Our process may not be as quick as some would like but there is no question that it is protecting children.

FLORES: The reason, government officials are checking parent's backgrounds claiming if they don't then --

MEEKINS: We would be putting them in the care of a rapist, a kidnapper, a child abuser and someone who was charged with murder in their own nation. But for mothers like Cindy Madrid who are still separated, the nightmare continues.


FLORES: Now the government here clearly did not meet the deadline but the judge saying that he is satisfied with the reasonable efforts that the government made to meet this deadline. The next hearing is scheduled for Friday. At that point in time, the ACLU can make a suggestion for possible punishments, perhaps set a new deadline. But Jake, the government speak to the fire definitely being held here were in regards to the separation of these children and the reunification with their parents.

TAPPER: All right, Rosa Flores, thanks so much. Let's bring back my political panel. President Trump, Kirsten, was asked earlier today about the fact that the Trump administration was not going to make the deadline just for these youngest kids five and under. And here is his response.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That's the solution. Don't come to our country illegally. Come like other people do. Come legally.


TAPPER: That seems to go at what originally the policy was, what the suggestion that this was meant as a deterrent.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Right, so it's not illegal to come to the country to seek asylum which is what most of these people are doing. A lot of Republicans have been it is illegal unless you're at a port of entry that's absolutely not true. Section 208 of the INA says quite clearly that you can come anywhere. It specifically says you do not have to come to a port of entry and these people don't even know where a port of entry is anyway. They are being brought by coyotes mostly and brought to the border so they're not doing anything illegal to start with. It's perfectly legal. But the lack of empathy -- I mean why am I surprised? I don't know. The lack of empathy of what would Donald Trump do if someone had taken his little Ivanka away from him or his daughter and what anybody would do, the way he's just talking about them don't come to our country or we're going to do this to your children, we're going to take them away from you and you're not even going to know where they are. I mean this is just utterly inhumane. And he's just -- he thinks that they deserve it because they were seeking asylum.

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W, BUSH: I hate to see these stories. I hate to see that these families are still not separated. I would love to see the President hold his own government accountable. Look, when the -- when people in his government have disappointed him before. He's made hay of it, called him out and expected better. I wish he would do that in this case. I want to see these families reunited. I think most Americans do. And then now, I think we want to see the cases adjudicated as quickly as possible. For the ones that have legitimate asylum claims get them settled. For the ones that need to be sent back to their country of origin, do that. All the polling I've seen on it is very clear. Keep the families united, put them back together and then get them to go wherever they're supposed to be as quickly as possible having this layout there for weeks and weeks and weeks does not help this presidency.

[16:50:19] TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to the White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah talking about why this delay is happening.


RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: One thing that we're running up against is that we need to vet and ensure that the people claiming to be parents are actually parents. We've had examples in the last administration, there was an Inspector General report in which children were given to people who came with them across the border illegally who were not their parents. These children were abused --


TAPPER: Now, that's true that did happen. I asked the former Department of Homeland Secretary about it Jeh Johnson but is that really what's going on here or they just using that as an excuse, Kirsten?

POWERS: Well, I guess it is in a way what's happening but it's a problem they created so now either right. You can't just hand a child over to anybody who's young and you don't have any way to verify who they are but there should -- there should have been some basic competency if you were going to do this where you would know which parent goes with which child. You wouldn't just put a bunch of kids on an airplane and send them to another state, NEVER mind that they never needed to be separated in the first place. So they have created this problem and now are acting like they're these big humanitarians and we're supposed to all be so understanding. And it's like look, you created this problem. You shouldn't have taken the kids away and if you did, you should have -- you should have known who their parents were and how their parents could contact them.

JENNINGS: I think Raj raises a very valid point. Americans expect the federal government to know who is in the country, why they are here, are they who they say they are, are they here under you know, false reasons are they here for bad reasons. That's all completely legitimate. It doesn't absolve them of needing to get these families reunified. I do think the Trump administration made a mistake in this policy in the first place but I will say politically I think the Democrats on the other end of this have completely overreached. This thing has set off a raft of abolish ICE realities across the country. My gosh, they're occupying downtown Louisville Kentucky where I live right now. And if the Democrats can take this issue which should have been a clear-cut winner for them on the Trump administration mistake and completely overplay and turn it into this abolish ICE movement the way they have, I just -- I don't think they are thinking through the political implications of what they're doing. So the Trump administration needs to do better and the Democrats really need to think hard about how much they've overreacted here.

TAPPER: All right, thanks so much. They're out of a flooded cave but may have to wait days before getting to their parents for those last -- those -- not last, for their hugs that they've been waiting for so long. We're going to go live to Thailand next stay with us.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD," rescuers in Thailand returning to a hero's welcome after safely removing the twelve boys in their soccer coach trapped in a cave for more than two weeks. They're being treated in an isolation ward at a local hospital and will soon be reunited with their families. CNN's Arwa Damon is there are. Arwa, how are they doing?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, you know, Jake, it's incredible because relatively speaking they are all doing fairly well. Five of the boys came out with low blood -- with low temperatures. That's pretty normal, brought up quite successfully to others with minor lung infections. They are responding quite well to medication and they're asking for I guess what it was that they were craving while they were inside. Some of the boys wanting chocolate spread, they were given that. They're having to spend daytime hours wearing sunglasses, again something that's quite understandable given the sheer amount of time they spent underground. And a lot of their relatives and loved ones are really struggling when it comes to trying to express their relief and gratitude.


SARISA PROMJAK, AUNT OF RESCUED BOY: I would like to thank all my heart. There's no way that we all could pay them back. If there's a chance for all of us as a family including other parents, we would go and bow to give thanks to everyone.

DAMON: And Jake, of course, they're still going to have to need a -- need to make a full physical recovery not to mention a psychological one. But tonight for the first time in so long 17, 18 nights, people are saying that finally, they will be able to get some sleep knowing that these boys and their coach are out and safe.

TAPPER: Such a wonderful story. Arwa, how soon before these boys will be able to be reunited with their families?

DAMON: Well, it's really going to depend. What we do know is that the first group of boys who came out on Sunday, those four, they were able to see their parents at a distance on Monday night through and behind a glass plate. Because they're so concerned about the boys immune systems being compromised, they're hearing that they want to keep them in this isolation ward or at least under observation for at least five to seven days. But you can just imagine how anxious the relatives, the parents are, the boys are themself to just be able to hug each other after everything that they have been through. And that really is going to be a moment that so many of us whether we know these children directly or not are really looking forward to.

TAPPER: It's such a wonderful story. Arwa Damon, thank you so much. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That is it for THE LEAD on this Tuesday. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, with friends like Trump. The President takes off U.S. allies even as he arrived at the NATO summit adding insult to injury by praising Vladimir Putin.